Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What I learned in 22 Days Facebook Free

So if you've been paying attention you know that I ended my Lenten fast of Facebook early. I made it to the half-way point but that's as far as I could go. Still, I consider the project a success and I wanted to check in and share what I learned and why I quit and why I won't choose Facebook as a Lenten sacrifice again in the future.

The short version of why I quit is that it was too doggone hard to accomplish things I needed to accomplish when so much of my community does its planning and promoting and connecting via social media and specifically via Facebook. Bravo Mr. Zuckerburg on the monster you have created. The longer version is of course a bit more complex.

I realized that I was missing out on things important to me. Big things. Friends getting engaged. Friends having babies. Friends having birthdays. Friends having car accidents. Friends losing parents. Friends dying. It isn't worth it to me to continue to miss that information and the opportunity to at least speak a word of support or celebration just to say I made it 40 Days.

I was also missing out on marketing my business, my projects, my causes.  At a time when I need to be generating income if at all possible continuing to actively avoid my largest social media contact pool seemed less than smart. I have a convention coming up this weekend where I am going to be talking about my work as a costumer. I'd like to generate a few new contacts if possible for my embroidery business and my contract work. I can't do that and avoid social media. I found myself creating more and more loopholes just to be able to do what I needed to do and still say I had made it 40 Days.

Most frustratingly I missed being able to share my life in the ways I was used to and most enjoy. Something cool would happen and I couldn't share it. Working on Anne Frank was so fantastic. There was so much I wanted to brag on those kids about and I let this fast get in the way of that. That's not ok with me. Teenagers get such a bad rap, when they're doing something good, something important, they need to have that spread all over social media too. The photos that I posted a few days ago don't tell a third of the story of that process. Kevin Rogers and Carrie Paulo and Chris Steele are doing great things out in Bartlett.

It eventually got to the point it just seemed hypocritical. So I quit.

By the measure of "making it 40 Days" this whole thing was a dismal failure.

That isn't the measure that counts to me though. You see they say that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. I made it 22. I went the distance long enough to achieve a big part of what I wanted to accomplish by taking this journey.

On day one I said this:

The reason(s) I chose Facebook instead of chocolate or caffeine or cursing or any of a hundred other things that I could have picked this year (has) to do with being more intentional. I need to be more intentionally aware of how I'm spending my time. I need to be more intentionally aware of where I am investing my focus. I need to create space in my life for things more personally and spiritually productive and my biggest time suck is represented by that blue and white icon...
That is and was the truth. By going the distance as long as I did I accomplished that goal. Facebook is back in a reasonable consumption intentional choice place in my life. It's not my "drug of choice" to avoid dealing with boredom or depression or whatever I don't want to deal with in that moment anymore. Its a tool. I still wake up in the middle of the night but I reach for my kindle now rather than my phone and Facebook to read myself back to sleep. I don't get up in the morning and grab my laptop anymore. I actually fix and eat food. I have a coke (my version of a cup of coffee). I look at my calendar and see what we have that I need to plan for. In the last 4 weeks I've costumed the Diary of Anne Frank, I've created the sashes for Pageant the Musical, I've cooked at home 80% of the time. I've remembered what life was before I let Facebook consume so much of it.

This week I'm catching up on watching the films I'm behind on for Outflix. I'm going to be marching in a parade on Thursday. I'm working on getting ready for Mid-South Con and the costume panels that I'm on. I'm dealing with still not having hot water after two weeks and two calls to our home warranty people. Today I'm waiting on repair guys and talking to creditors that need to be dealt with and I'm not numbing any of  that out with mindless use of social media.

Will I be on later? You betcha. I've got to sit around and wait for Jessi to get out of rehearsal tonight and that's a perfect time to indulge. Or maybe not. Maybe I'll use that time to memorize my monologue for the Maundy Thursday drama I will be doing next week. Maybe I'll use it to re-do my theater resume that was lost in a computer crash around Christmas so that I can audition for a job doing mystery theater. Maybe I'll take my kindle with me instead and finish reading that mystery I started at 3 AM. It's my choice. My intentional choice.

22 Days was enough to make me mindful.

Mindfulness was a large part of the goal.

I may not have made it 40 Days but I'm ok with that. I did what I needed to do.

I call that a success.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Ooooh I'm Halfway There...Ooooh Living on a Prayer

Since I have already given you the earworm, here's the video to go with it.

Today is the halfway point. Halfway from Mardi Gras to Easter I'm at the midpoint on my Lenten Journey. I'm really glad so many of you have chosen to come along with me thus far. 

I really didn't pick today's title just to indulge my love of '80's Hair bands. It's where I am. It's where I am in this lent thing, It's where I am in my life. 

Six years ago we got flooded, along with a ton of other folks in our city and in our state. They called it a 1000 year flood. But we've seen that those models don't work anymore. Debate it as you will, whether we humans have caused it or if we even have the ability to cause it, but denying climate change is no longer a viable option. Not for those who value intellectual honesty and scientific observation. We are seeing bigger storms and more damage than the past. We're seeing global shifts in temperature and severe melts to the ice caps. I don't claim to know what all this means for the world but what it means for me is that I walk the floor when it rains, especially if there is any kind of flood watch or warning. 

We made a decision six years ago. We made the decision to take out a disaster loan to rehabilitate our flood damaged house. At the time it was a no brainer decision. We'd just paid off my car and the payment on that THIRD mortgage wasn't as much as our car note had been so we evaluated our situation and took on the loan. Two years ago this month my husband was let go from his job of 13 years. We were fortunate, he found work fairly quickly, it was even in his field. The academic world had changed though. Faculty positions now were adjunct and held no job security from semester to semester and the pay was a third less than what we had been accustomed to. We had savings. We supplemented our income for the last two years by draining our emergency funds and then our retirement accounts. The estimates we were given when cashing those out didn't actually end up meeting the tax burden and so we added the IRS to the list of people we pay monthly. Our neighborhood has never been the best but now our aging neighbors are dying off and houses around us sit boarded up and empty. Our property values have tanked. We're stuck. We're stuck geographically because we're stuck financially. We are learning what it means to not be here by choice. We have left the ranks of the upwardly mobile. Even with no debt beyond what we owe to the government and the mortgage companies we are nearly to the point of joining the ranks of the broke. We are living on a prayer. 

I don't share this for sympathy. I share it to let you know what's going on with me. I share it because I know that some of you see me show as active on Facebook even as I blog about NOT being on Facebook. Many of those times are my pop ons to post this and the others are often where my messenger remains connected via my phone. Some of those times are when I hear something that makes me evaluate my other values against the principle of keeping my lenten discipline and that other thing wins.  Many of those though are when I'm looking for work, offering my skills and my products to help keep us treading water.  

I went back to work a few months ago. I liked my job. I loved the patrons. I was good at it. It didn't pay enough to cover the costs of my leaving home. The day I had to choose between risking our only family vehicle in bad weather in order to go in and work a two hour shift that wouldn't cover the cost of the gas there and back or quitting. I quit. I've never left a job with no notice before. It's not who I am. I simply didn't have any other viable option.  

I'm looking for full time work. I'm busting my tail seeking out opportunities to market the skills and abilities that I have in the meanwhile. But I'm not the person that is starting out from below the poverty line. We've still got a long way to go before we get there. I have resources at my disposal. Things we own from before our life took this detour that enable me to offer my services without having to invest money up front. Things out of our excess that I can offer for trade or sale. And it's hard. Even from this height above the mythical playing field it's hard. I am only beginning to understand how hard it is from the actual line where others are expected to start.

I'm not sure what my point is. Maybe just to challenge how our current crop of candidates like to paint a picture of a nation of lazy entitled layabouts looking for a handout. I'm here to testify that this is a false picture. If I, as a privileged, educated, cisgender, white person can't afford to work at a full dollar above the federal minimum wage how on earth do we expect people who lack my advantages to do it?

I stand in solidarity with the working poor. 

Until tomorrow. Peace. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Rough Day

Missing costume pieces. Broken dishes. Lost friends. 

Until tomorrow. Peace. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Super Tuesday Y'all!

Today, perhaps more than any other so far, its a giant challenge to stay the course and stay off my Facebook. It's the "Super Tuesday" primaries and I am a political animal cut off from my favorite watering hole. So of course I'm going to blog about it.

Because my state does stupid stuff like this: 

As I am typing this my congressional representatives are voting on a bill that would make it legal for counselors to refuse to treat people (read LGBTQIAA people).

"No counselor or therapist providing counseling or therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist; provided, that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy. (WREG.COM)

In a couple of hours they'll also be voting to on a bill,

that would require public school students to use the bathroom assigned to the sex shown on their birth certificate. (WATE.COM)
I don't even want to begin to THINK how they're planning to police and enforce that one. 

Tomorrow they're planning to defund the diversity department at one of our largest state funded colleges and use that money to put "In God We Trust" on state and local police vehicles.  I kid you not.

SB 1912
Tennessee Senate Bill
Budget Procedures - As introduced, prohibits state funds from being expended in support of the office for diversity and inclusion at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; diverts such funding to a program for placing decals of the national motto on local and state law enforcement vehicles. - Amends TCA Title 9 and Title 49 (Openstates.org)
Wrapping up the week they're going to engage in a useless and expensive effort to turn back marriage equality in defiance of the ruling of SCOTUS from last June. 

THIS is why voting matters. Whether you believe that these are horrible ideas (and I do) or wonderful ones your primary means of influencing the outcome is in your right to vote. I was raised to believe that voting was both a sacred right and a civic duty. People fought and bled and died for you and me to have that right and its a sin and a shame that less than half of us exercise it in any given election. The only way a representative democracy like ours works is if all of us who are given the right to vote exercise the responsibility to actually do so. 

I was at Sam's club this morning after we went to the polls as a family and the guy in the tire center who had replaced my flat tire commented on the "I Voted Today" sticker I was wearing. He opined that what really mattered was not voting but voting for the right person. I didn't ask who he thought that was or offer who I did. I simply told him that I disagree. What matters is that you vote. 

I don't care if you are so disgusted with your options that you write in the Man in the Moon. You're exercising your rights and shouldering your civic responsibilities and by doing so you're letting your voice be a part of the conversation. If you tell me you don't vote, I really don't want to hear your opinion. If you can't be bothered to take the time out of your day that you're entitled by law to take and go and vote then you lose your right to complain about the outcome of the elections that you didn't participate in. 

And when I'm making those phone calls or sending those e-mails to my legislators on matters that matter to me you better believe that I remind them that I have a very long memory and I vote. 

So get out there and do it. We Did!

Until tomorrow, Peace. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Absurd Luxury of Hot Water

For several weeks now we've had a shower leak. It started as a drip, progressed to a trickle, became a stream and then the hot water ran full blast even if the faucet was turned totally off. With the emergency funds gone since Harold has been underemployed these last two years and my foray into trying to get a part time job having only put us further behind we have simply not had the funds to contact a plumber so we managed the problem by turning the hot water on and off at the valve at the water heater. Inconvenient to be sure but still not unmanageable. Until yesterday. When that valve also started to leak.

At that point I printed out our contract with American Home Shield and discovered that all this time we have had plumbing coverage and didn't know it. So today the plumber is here. He just went back outside to turn on the water and test the first fix as we speak. If all goes as planned, I will have hot water that doesn't require a trip to the garage by the end of this visit. Hopefully I will not also have a chunk of my shower that needs to be retiled.

Still, this whole mess has made me acutely aware of the incredible luxury that is hot water and how much we take such things for granted.

I find myself thinking today of my friends Hugh Hollowell and Peter Gathje who run Love Wins Ministries in Raleigh, NC and Manna House Memphis respectively and also of my friend Bec Cranford-Smith who serves as the Director of Community Relations and Volunteer Services at the Gateway Center in Atlanta. These three folks are doing good work among our neighbors who live outdoors AKA "the homeless". One of the things that both Manna House and the Gateway Center (and I imagine Love Wins may as well) provide to our neighbors who sleep outdoors is a place to come and shower and do laundry. A couple of things I also take for granted.


Sadly I am still without the ability to have hot water conveniently. The valve on the water heater is fixed but the valve in the shower/tub is FUBAR. AHS will not cover it as apparently it isn't due to normal wear and tear AND in order to actually replace the valve we have to remove a section of my six year old kitchen cabinets. I could cry. $400 for the plumbing part of the fix and still contacting contractors for estimates to get us access to DO said fix. Accepting recommendations.

Still. First World Problems.

Until tomorrow. Peace.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Loophole Revisited

One of the things I promised myself throughout this process was to be intentional and aware. I really felt strongly that taking the Sunday loophole wasn't something I wanted to do, but 17 days in I realize that with all I have going on in March that is being coordinated and organized via Facebook checking in weekly is something I need to do. Sundays are available and traditionally approved so Sundays it is.

I'm currently working on two shows that both open the same weekend in March. I also have MidSouth Con coming up and a home business that I'm trying to relaunch. I need to be able to use social media for those things. My daughter is also in a show and goes into a heavy rehearsal schedule before Lent ends so there is going to be coordination of schedules that needs to happen. Facebook makes that easier.

So yeah, I'm here today. I'm still setting some rules around Sunday though. I have to be here, physically present at the desk in front of the home computer. No using the phone, kindle or laptop. I am actually considering making that a permanent policy. I think that alone will help cut down on the invasive nature of the Facebook beast.

Messenger will remain open all the time as it has been so that I can be reached if needed during the week. Comments to the blog are also a way to reach me.

So I'm here. Until tomorrow. Peace.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fabrication Friday

I finally gave up and bought a new rotary cutter. The TWO others I have hiding somewhere in this house will now likely immediately turn up in the most obvious of places as if I have not spent the last week searching for them in precisely that spot. I'm going to be doing a lot of sewing and prop work this weekend so it became imperative that I have the tools I needed rather than needing the tools I know I have.

On the agenda:

  • Completing the sashes for Pageant at POTS
  • Finding pants for the guys in Anne Frank (AF)
  • Soft sculpturing a couple of dozen potatoes (AF)
  • Distressing and aging the satchel we found including removing the cell phone pocket (AF)
  • Finalizing the costume plot as we go into tech on Monday (AF)
  • Uploading listings and getting my Etsy live 
  • Organizing the pattern drawers and seeing what McCalls on sale I may need
  • Buying two large cutting mats with my birthday money while they are on sale
For reference here is some of my past prop work:

Audrey II puppet - Best of Broadway Dinner Theater - Kroc Memphis (now Stagedoor Productions)

Audrey II in use during "Feed Me"

Ham prop - MacBeth Banquet Scene

In use in Threepenny Theater Company's MacBeth

I've also done break away plates for "Spitfire Grill" at BHS Panther Playhouse so making Anne some potatoes should be fun. 

And just for fun some of my costume stuff: 

I got started in costuming when we got involved with a local pirate cosplay group. These are some of the first pieces I ever made. 
$2.99 Twin Bed Skirt from Goodwill
Becomes not one 

but TWO pirate skirts

A $2.69 orange plastic  pirate pistol

Transformed with some paint work
add a few purchased pieces and stack the skirts one atop the other
Captain Betty Mallard of the Rubber Ducky

A couple of years later Bella DuBalle came into my life. I've been around Bella since she was "born" as the guy she shares a body with is one of my dearest friends. We worked a small drag show together in late 2013 and for Evil Disney night she wanted to be Maleficent. I set out to build the iconic cloak using a variation on a Pinterest pin for an Elizabethan collar made from a lampshade. It has been through several variations and improvement over the years and is a piece I'm still proud of. When she took this look to Miss Gay America 2015 I also created the dress for her Aurora. Next time I'd use better quality satin but you live and you learn. I'll be talking about these costumes and the theater costuming work I do at MidSouthCon 34 in the Sunday afternoon "Costuming for Theater and Film" panel at 1:00. The staff prop is a closet rod topped with a christmas ornament and an LED ball with copious amounts of gold spray paint and glitter.

Bella's Maleficent Cloak and Staff  - 1st variation

It has appeared on stage at Dragnificent (Photo Kevin Reed) and various other venues

The most recent variation appeared on stage at Miss Gay America 2015 (Photo Barb McKrickerd)

Along with this Princess Aurora costume

 The first show I costumed or acted in after high school was "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" it was the first show in the new Kroc Center theater (now Stagedoor Productions) and I was both an actor and the costumer. 
In Terazin in the school room scene

Dinner scene, that's me in the middle with my arm around my on stage daughter 
This Astrid costume is one of the ones I'll be talking about in the "Costuming on a Budget" panel at Mid-South Con. March 18th at 5:00. It's a joint project with my daughter who caught the costuming bug as well and is currently helping me greatly with the Anne Frank project.

Astrid costume for How to Train Your Dragon group cosplay - created for under $20
Speaking of which. Time to head out thrifting to finish getting those Anne Frank boys some clothes. Until tomorrow, Peace.